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The final numbers are the individual frame numbers.
So number P3151234 was the 1234th frame number built during the 15th week of 1983.
If you view the chart, specific numbering styles are starting to appear.
Each different numbering style may represent a different factory.
The two-letter prefix found on many serial numbers does seem to represent model years, or ar least production runs.
The short answer is that it takes a bit of detective work to date your vintage Lotus.